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Think about the United Nations!
October 18, 2018
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If you are like the majority of my friends, you would have imagined UN Peacekeeping – Blue helmets, tanks, soldiers with their guns or refugee camps.

But if you were to ask Liberians like Sahr Sundu and Musa Karnley, you will get a different answer.

Liberia the first independent African Republic (established in 1847) has suffered two civil wars that claimed over 250,000 lives and ruined the social, cultural and economic structure. The UN Mission in

Liberia, or UNMIL, was deployed in October 2003. The Mission’s 14-plus years of operation was a success story. Relative peace and order were restored; however, the economy was in dire straits. The UN mission had a limited budget, and the iron-clad scope was restricting its activities. Staying within the mandate, UNMIL troops conducted several quick-impact projects (QIPs) to alleviate the suffering of the population.

The Pakistani Battalion in Liberia led a quick-impact project (QIP) to teach much-needed skills like how to repair electrical appliances, generators, and other equipment. The primary motivation of this project was to prevent internal-displacement and migration – if people in Tubmanburg got proper training they would not have to run to Monrovia (the capital).

“The Story of UNMIL,” a recent United Nations book cites an encounter of a UN observer with two Liberians who attended the training nine years ago:

“Mr. Sahr now owns God’s Time is the Best Workshop, which he says is the best in Tubmanburg and built most of the doors and windows in the town. He had been trained as a welder/ technician by the Pakistani engineers. He said that the training had helped him, his family and the immediate community.”

“Musa Karnley was also trained by the Pakistanis as a welder and a generator technician and is currently the manager of Nakar Garage in Tubmanburg, specializing in generator repair and welding. He said that the training gave him the knowledge and technical skills to do repairs, and had given him an edge over the competition, especially in getting new jobs. His income increased tremendously, he said.”

The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has come to a conclusion, mostly thanks to the Troop Contributing Countries. Pakistan’s two battalions went home leaving behind millions of happy Liberians.

Last year, Major General Saihu Zaway Uba, Force Commander of UNMIL expressed concern with the drawdown of the mission. He told the Security Council that his Mission’s 14-year presence had been reduced to just 434 troops on the ground and was expected to be fully liquidated in June 2018. He recommended “clear and flexible” planning considerations in the transition phase, and a graduated approach to drawdown, among other measures.

The UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) completed its mandate last year after more than thirteen years. In general, a drawdown of the troops is a good thing. However, if not done correctly, the risk of chaos and civil war looms high. A staggered drawdown of troops coupled with capacity building of local law enforcement mitigates the risk of a relapse into violence.

The UN Peacekeeping has been under significant pressure. The 2018/19 budget for thirteen peacekeeping operations and overhaul of secretariat management structure is $6.69 Billion. Down from approximately $7.5 Billion a year ago.

Historically, the United States has been a generous donor to the Peacekeeping operations. But the Trump administration introduced drastic cuts to the Contributions for International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA) in 2019, budget slashing over $710 million for CIPA account, which includes UN Peacekeeping funding. CIPA dropped from $1.908 billion to $1.196 billion – a 37 percent cut from FY’17 enacted levels.

Trump administrations critics claim this move is unwise. The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) agrees. A recent GAO report states that supporting UN Peacekeeping operations is eight times cheaper than the U.S. going it alone.

Better World Campaign President Peter Yeo in a statement said: “supporting the UN is both in our (US) national security interests and a good deal for American taxpayers.”

Peacekeeping Organization has also been under tremendous scrutiny to show an outcome leading to management reforms.  After much debate among member nations, the Organization announced two new departments focused on political and peacebuilding affairs and four stand-alone divisions for Africa to “streamline the Organization’s operations.”

In recent years, the United Nations has been prioritizing African TCCs because of the lower cost of logistics. That doesn’t come without risk. Some recently added TCCs do not have the experience, mindset, training or equipment required to carry out the Peacekeeping charter.

Last December, fourteen UN peacekeepers were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The peacekeeping officers were all Tanzanian. A month later, in January 2018, a Pakistani soldier lost his life in an ambush. Our peacekeepers immediately responded with appropriate force killing 11 members of attacking militia.

Since 1960, Pakistan has contributed troops in 46 Peacekeeping missions in 28 countries. In the last ten years, Pakistan has ranked number one among Troop Contributing Countries. Pakistan’s contribution has dropped this year following drawdowns of two battalions from Darfur and one from Congo. UN’s emphasis on recruiting African TCCs has also impacted Pakistan’s ranking.

Dr Maleeha Lodhi, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to United Nations reminds this scribe:

“For over five decades, Pakistan has been a leader in UN peacekeeping, both as a troop contributing country and as an important voice in normative and reform processes at the UN in this area. Pakistan is proud to have contributed to the success of several UN peacekeeping missions. Its role in this critical UN enterprise is one reflection of Pakistan’s commitment to upholding and preserving international peace and stability.”

There is a recognition at the UN headquarters that Pakistani troops are highly experienced in peacekeeping, well equipped and well poised. Sierra Leone’s Military Adviser Col Albert Jusu, in an encounter with his Pakistani counterpart, expressed gratitude saying: “We have left Pakistan’s flag on the schools that you guys built so that we always remember how Pakistan helped us rebuild our country. Pakistani soldiers have the kind of mindset that is needed to stabilize and rebuild.

Besides building schools and bridges, Pakistanis have also delivered healthcare. Major-General Salihu Zaway Uba, UNMIL Force Commander, told the Security Council: “The Pakistani Medical Unit has been providing medical level 2 services to all of the UN personnel and ensuring the stable health of UNMIL personnel.”

Living in New York, one of the most diverse cities in the world, I often run into Africans. Many of them know Pakistan because of its contribution to the peacekeeping mission.

The expertise Pakistan has gained serving in these missions culminated in the Centre for International Peace and Stability (CIPS) at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST). Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon inaugurated CIPS in 2013. Recently Under-Secretary-General of Peacekeeping Operations, Jean Pierre Lacroix visited CIPS to pay tribute to sacrifices of Pakistani peacekeepers.

Pakistan is now at a point where it can train resources of other TCCs to replicate the success of Liberia, Darfur, Côte d’Ivoire, and Congo.

I know the lives of 156 Pakistani peacekeepers are not gone in vain because today, as a Sudanese friend tells me: “Pakistan knows Africa and Africans know Pakistan.”

This article was published by Hilal Magazine.

Articles Featured
Did LifeLock Security Bug Put you at Risk?
July 26, 2018
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https://krebsonsecurity.com/2018/07/lifelock-bug-exposed-millions-of-customer-email-addresses/

LifeLock, the identity theft protection company, has put millions of customer emails at risk for phishing and identity theft attacks, thanks to a bug on its website.

The bug enabled customer email addresses to be harvested by simply changing one number in the URL of a web page used by customers to unsubscribe from LifeLock communications.

It’s important to note that this is not a breach, but it is a vulnerability to pay attention to since ID thieves can use email addresses to steal other personal info.

How Symantec Resolved the Issue Involving the LifeLock Marketing Opt-Out Page

LifeLock claims:

Responsible stewardship of critical data is our central mission, and we take these matters very seriously. The issue was limited to potential exposure of email addresses on a marketing page, managed by a third party, intended to allow recipients to unsubscribe from marketing emails. The issue was not with our main member portal or any other pages on LifeLock.com besides the marketing opt-out page.

Here is what you should do:

  1. Be skeptical of email communications urging you to take immediate action or claiming that they are privacy policy updates.
  2. Do not click on any suspicious-looking links in those messages and instead forward any suspicious email to the company itself. Call the company directly to confirm whether any such messaging is actually from them.
  3. Do not enter any personal info or credentials via links in emails. If you need to make updates, go directly to the company’s website to do so.

LifeLock monitors identity-related events, such as new account openings and credit-related applications. The company offers a $1 Million Service Guarantee. 

In late 2016, Symantec bought Lifelock for $2.3 billion. Shares of Symantec were up 0.4% at $20.77 on Thursday.

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Data Brokers Detest California’s Privacy Law
July 12, 2018
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California’s consumer privacy law is expected to have a significant impact on companies that deal in personal data — and especially those operating in the digital space. The California Consumer Privacy Act, A.B. 375, affords California residents an array of new rights, starting with the right to be informed about what kinds of personal data companies have collected and why it was collected.

The law stipulates that consumers have the right to request the deletion of their personal information, opt out of the sale of personal information, and access the personal information in a “readily useable format” that enables its transfer to third parties without hindrance.

The law’s requirements could threaten established business models far beyond California and throughout the digital sector.

Much of the political impetus behind the law’s passage came from some major privacy scandals that have come to light in recent months, including the Cambridge Analytica incident involving Facebook user data. This and other news drove public support for a privacy ballot initiative that would have instituted an even stricter data protection regime on companies that deal in consumer data if the state’s residents voted to pass it in November. But after intense negotiation, especially from leading internet companies and internet service providers, the backers of the ballot initiative agreed to drop the initiative and instead support the passage of the law.

https://hbr.org/2018/07/what-you-need-to-know-about-californias-new-data-privacy-law

Data Privacy: California Leads the Way

The bill gives consumers the right to have their personal data deleted; the right to know the commercial purpose for collecting their data; and the categories of sources from which the data are collected. It also prohibits a business from selling the personal data of anybody under the age of 16 unless that child agrees.

The bill gives companies the ability to offer discounts to customers who allow their data to be sold and charge those who opt out a reasonable amount based on how much the company makes selling the information.

Lawmakers say they will likely make alterations to improve the policy before it takes effect. Some privacy advocates are worried that lobbyists for business and technology groups will use that time to water it down.

TechNet, a technology lobbying group, urged lawmakers to improve the law before it takes effect “so it provides meaningful privacy protections for Californians while also allowing all the benefits and opportunities consumers expect from U.S. technology to continue.”

Policymakers around the country looking at what California has done on this issue should understand that the California Legislature’s work is far from finished and that this law remains a work in progress.

The California law is not as expansive as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, or G.D.P.R., a new set of laws restricting how tech companies collect, store and use personal data.

Google, Facebook, Verizon, Comcast and AT&T each contributed $200,000 to a committee opposing the proposed ballot measure, and lobbyists had estimated that businesses would spend $100 million to campaign against it before the November election.

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AI, ML and Deep Learning “cheat sheet” for the busy professionals
July 9, 2018
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Can you distinguish between “Deep Learning” and “Machine Learning.”? What about “artificial intelligence”? Let’s start with the definition of artificial intelligence because this is where it all begins.

Artificial intelligence (AI), “the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings.”

Simply put, AI is a technology that enables a machine (computer/robot) to make an intelligent decision or take action. Academically speaking, “AI technology enables an intelligent agent to cognitively perceive its environment and correspondingly attempt to maximize its probability of success of target action.” In this context, a hardware module, software, a robot, or an application is “an intelligent agent,” The discipline of AI is probably older than you 🙂 Following excerpt is from 1953.

“We propose that a two-month, 10-man study of artificial intelligence be carried out during the summer of 1956 at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. The study is to proceed on the basis of the conjecture that every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it. An attempt will be made to find how to make machines use language, form abstractions and concepts, solve kinds of problems now reserved for humans, and improve themselves. We think that a significant advance can be made in one or more of these problems if a carefully selected group of scientists work on it together for a summer”.

Moving on to Machine learning (ML) which has evolved from pattern recognition and computational learning theory in AI. ML is the capability of a computer to learn without being explicitly programmed. It is functionality to learn and make predictions from data.

Simply put Machine learning, is concerned with the implementation of computer software that can learn autonomously. When provided with sufficient data, a machine learning algorithm can learn to make predictions or solve problems, such as identifying objects in pictures or winning at particular games, for example. Here is a reasonable definition of ML.

 “Machine Learning is the science of getting computers to learn and act like humans do, and improve their learning over time in autonomous fashion, by feeding them data and information in the form of observations and real-world interactions.”

  • “Machine learning is the science of getting computers to act without being explicitly programmed.” – Stanford
  •  “Machine learning is based on algorithms that can learn from data without relying on rules-based programming.”- McKinsey & Co.
  •  “Machine learning algorithms can figure out how to perform important tasks by generalizing from examples.” – University of Washington
  •  “The field of Machine Learning seeks to answer the question “How can we build computer systems that automatically improve with experience, and what are the fundamental laws that govern all learning processes?” – Carnegie Mellon University

A neural network is composed of simple processing nodes, or ‘artificial neurons’, which are connected to one another in layers. Each node will receive data from several nodes ‘above’ it, and give data to several nodes ‘below’ it. Nodes attach a ‘weight’ to the data they receive, and attribute a value to that data. If the data does not pass a certain threshold, it is not passed on to another node. The weights and thresholds of the nodes are adjusted when the algorithm is trained until similar data input results in consistent outputs.

Now let’s talk about “deep learning.”

“Deep learning is a machine learning technique that uses multiple internal layers of nonlinear processing units to conduct supervised or unsupervised learning from data.”

Deep learning literature borrows from neuroscience, and implemented as “a neural network.” You will find academics and practitioners of this field talk about “neurons and perceptrons.” Relax – they are not going to operate on your brain.

Simply put, the nonlinear processing units are commonly referred to as the neurons. Automation became possible due to AI technology. Machines become capable of automated learning and making decisions due to machine learning technology. Moreover, precision details are cognitively noticed in the automated learning process and used in the accurate decision making of complex problems due to deep learning technology.

A more recent variation of neural networks, which uses many layers of artificial neurons to solve more difficult problems. Its popularity as a technique increased significantly from the mid-2000s onwards, as it is behind much of the wider interest in AI today. It is often used to classify information from images, text or sound.

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From “Satisfied” to “Enthusiastic” Customers
July 9, 2018
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Increasingly, organizations are turning to contact centers, as a way to drive competitive advantage, to create a systematic and a sustainable differentiator and to improve customer loyalty, repeat business and to grow market share.

A few years back business executives told us that they saw their call center as a necessary evil. In other words, we have all those pesky customers out there, and we don’t want them bothering our salespeople, our engineers, our R&D people, our marketing people. So, we’re going to put up this call center, and they are going to become a shield between the customers and us.

In other words, call centers were there to absorb all the questions that those customers might have. So the call center was viewed as a supplement to traditional brick-and-mortar facilities. The goal was customer satisfaction.

However, in the new paradigm which has emerged, in the last 3 to 5 years, the call center is increasingly being viewed as a source of value creation. It’s a way to differentiate your company’s products and services. It’s frequently considered as a replacement for traditional brick-and-mortar facilities.

Moreover, the goal often is not to react to the customer, but instead, to stay ahead of customer needs and expectations and ultimately, to create customer enthusiasm – and customer loyalty – and to differentiate your company’s products and services from those of the competition.

Although what you’re selling – regardless of whether it’s building materials or insurance services or any other products or services, to the extent that they might be viewed as a commodity, service or product – the call center has an opportunity to differentiate your products and services from those of the competition.

So, you can think about the service you deliver at the call center at the flipside of the product that you sell within your organization. They are two sides of the same coin. Moreover, in world-class service and support organizations, in world-class call centers, the two become indistinguishable. In other words, the service becomes part of the product. Moreover, high-quality service differentiates the product and drives repeat business, drives positive word-of-mouth referrals and drives customer loyalty.

Satisfied customers are not necessarily loyal customers. They don’t necessarily want to do business with you, and they are unlikely to propagate positive word-of-mouth referrals or be loyal to your channel.

By contrast, enthusiastic customers want to do business with you; they will propagate positive word-of-mouth referrals. So eager customers are the ones that are loyal to you and keep coming back and enable you to grow your business, increase your market share and improve your revenue. Now, what we’ve seen, over time, is that call centers tend to evolve through three stages.

Call centers that are relatively new or immature tend to operate in what we would call the support stage. These are reasonably reactive call centers. They are merely trying to keep the lid on service levels, but they are forever playing catch-up with customer needs and expectations. If you have ever worked in a call center like this, you know that these call centers tend to be somewhat chaotic.

However, in most cases, the call center will begin to recognize that there must be a better way to do things. So, they start to make investments in training and tools and technology that enable them to get ahead of customer needs and expectations and start to anticipate what the customers want and to begin to get more proactive about the quality of service that they deliver and the value of service that they provide through the contact center channel.

Finally, the most successful in this evolution become what we would consider strategic stage call centers. These are the call centers that operate in this new paradigm. They know that they can create value at this interface, they see that customer contact is a potential opportunity to create a competitive advantage. The goal is to stay ahead of customer needs and expectations and to drive loyalty, enthusiasm and to differentiate the company’s products and services.

Now, unfortunately, most call centers still operate in the support stage. They are not aware of the fact that they can potentially become more strategic, more proactive, more preventive and more of a value driver within the organization.

Now, nearly two-thirds, or 64% of call centers worldwide still operate in this support stage. That is, they are very reactive. However, about 31% – nearly one-third – have entered what we call the transitional or the growth stage, where they begin to make substantial investments in training and tools and technology, in an effort to drive value at this interface, in an effort to inspire loyalty and to create a competitive advantage through the call center.

Only about 5% worldwide operate in this strategic stage. Some organizations get there and then, lose their competitive advantage and then slip back into the transitional or the support stage.

So how can you make this transition quickly and efficiently? I have seen many failed attempts and few successful ones. What about you? What do you think works?

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Data Privacy: California Leads the Way
July 9, 2018
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California passed an online-data-privacy bill granting consumers some of the most sweeping and unprecedented privacy protections in the country. The bill goes into effect in 2020,

The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (AB 375) bill will apply only to California consumers. However, internet users in other states will likely see changes.

The bill gives consumers the right to have their personal data deleted; the right to know the commercial purpose for collecting their data; and the categories of sources from which the data are collected. It also prohibits a business from selling the personal data of anybody under the age of 16 unless that child agrees.

The bill gives companies the ability to offer discounts to customers who allow their data to be sold and charge those who opt out a reasonable amount based on how much the company makes selling the information.

Lawmakers say they will likely make alterations to improve the policy before it takes effect. Some privacy advocates are worried that lobbyists for business and technology groups will use that time to water it down.

TechNet, a technology lobbying group, urged lawmakers to improve the law before it takes effect “so it provides meaningful privacy protections for Californians while also allowing all the benefits and opportunities consumers expect from U.S. technology to continue.”

Policymakers around the country looking at what California has done on this issue should understand that the California Legislature’s work is far from finished and that this law remains a work in progress.

The California law is not as expansive as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, or G.D.P.R., a new set of laws restricting how tech companies collect, store and use personal data.

Google, Facebook, Verizon, Comcast and AT&T each contributed $200,000 to a committee opposing the proposed ballot measure, and lobbyists had estimated that businesses would spend $100 million to campaign against it before the November election.