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Climate Change: Look North and South – The Evidence Is Real

Nancy Langmeyer

Explorer Sir Robert Swan – the first and only man to walk on both the North and South Poles unsupported – believes that “the greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”

As a self-proclaimed survivor, Sir Swan, like many others around the globe, believes that climate change and global warming are very serious issues.

The United Nations (UN) adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, and Goal 13 asks the world to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.” According to the UN, “Climate change is now affecting every country on every continent. It is disrupting national economies and affecting lives, costing people, communities, and countries dearly today and even more tomorrow.”

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) says the rate of temperature increase around the globe has nearly doubled in the last 50 years due to greenhouse gases released as people burn fossil fuels. But even though 2016 was the hottest year in recent history, sadly there are still people in the world who say global warming is of no concern and that it is actually a “hoax!”

Well, like Sir Swan, let’s look to the North and Sole Poles and see what we can learn about the reality of this situation.

The Poles have a story to tell us…

Sir Swan believes the North and South Poles hold vital clues to the issue of global warming and that they are an indication of what is going on around the world in respect to climate change.

In his TED talk, Swan showed pictures of melting ice in the North and South Poles, describing it as a dangerous situation. He says, “We need to listen to what these places tell us, and if we don’t, we’ll end up with our own survival situation here on planet Earth.”

So, let’s start in the North and find out what we can learn there.

At 90⁰ north latitude, the North Pole is 450 miles north of Greenland, in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. There is no actual landmass at the North Pole – only massive amounts of ice that expand in winters and shrink down to half the size in summers.

The climate change story here is that the North Pole has been experiencing unusually high temperatures, reaching 32⁰ Fahrenheit in December 2016, which was 50⁰ warmer than typical! This trend has lead to an alarming shrinkage of the Arctic Sea ice masses that equates to approximately 1.07 million km² of ice loss every decade.

Why is this a problem? Well, according to the National Science Foundation, sea ice variability – the amount of water the ice puts into or pulls out of the ocean and the atmosphere – plays a significant role in climate change. NASA says that, “The sea ice cover of the Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas helps regulate the planet’s temperature, influences the circulation of the atmosphere and ocean, and impacts Arctic communities and ecosystems.”

Even the coldest place on Earth is getting warmer!

Now, in the completely opposite direction, what can we learn from the South Pole and Antarctica? At 90⁰ south latitude, Antarctica, which includes approximately 90% of the ice on the planet, is a little over 300 feet above sea level with an ice sheet on it that is about 9,000 feet thick.

Much colder than the North Pole, the temperature here has dropped to a chilling low of -135.8⁰ Fahrenheit in 2013. However, this pole, too, is experiencing warmer weather, with its highest temperature reaching 63.5⁰ in March 2015.

NASA indicates that Antarctica has been losing about 134 gigatonnes of ice per year since 2002. And just recently, a new concern emerged – a rift in the continent that could send a significant part of the polar cap off into the ocean and create one of the largest icebergs ever recorded. This could, in the long run, raise global sea levels by four inches.

So what’s a little rise in sea level?

While a couple inches here or there doesn’t seem like much, NASA says rising sea levels can erode coasts and cause more coastal flooding, and in fact, some island nations could actually disappear.

And that’s just the sea level. There are other ramifications as the climate changes, such as an increase in infectious diseases with the expansion of tropical temperature zones, more intense rain storms and hurricanes, and many other life-threatening issues.

Let’s be the “someone else”

These insights are just the tip of the iceberg (so to speak) in the story of global warming, but it is evident the Poles are telling us that climate change is real. It’s also evident that it’s time for us as the inhabitants of this world to become the “someone else” Sir Swan talks about. And the good news is that it’s not too late for us to save this planet.

We don’t have to go to the North or South Pole to make an impact. We can simply follow Swan’s advice: “A survivor sees a problem and doesn’t go, ‘Whatever.’ A survivor sees a problem and deals with that problem before it becomes a threat.”

Whether it’s at work with a company like SAP that supports the UN SDGs with its vision and purpose, or individually – we all have to help climate change before there are irreversible threats to our place. Let’s be the someone else, starting today.

A quick note: My last blog focused on how women in the arts and sports are helping to break gender inequality barriers. Well, I am happy to report that this same movement is happening in science too! In 2016, an initial 76 women in science embarked on a leadership journey to increase the awareness of climate science. The inaugural session of the year-long Homeward Bound program, which focused on empowering women in science, culminated in December 2016 with the largest female expedition in Antarctica. Here these brilliant, dedicated female scientists and engineers saw the effects of climate change first-hand and brainstormed how they, through “collaborative leadership, diverse thinking, and creative approaches,” could make an impact. 

SAP’s vision is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. This is our enduring cause; our higher purpose. Learn more about how we work to achieve our vision and purpose.

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Nancy Langmeyer

About Nancy Langmeyer

Nancy Langmeyer is a freelance writer and marketing consultant. She works with some of the largest technology companies in the world and is a frequent blogger. You'll see some under her name...and then there are others that you won't see. These are ones where Nancy interviews marketing executives and leaders and turns their insights into thought leadership pieces..

It’s Time To Replace The Aging Roadway Infrastructure

Megan Ray Nichols

Rhode Island is one of the smallest states in the U.S., yet more than 56% of its bridges are deficient. Its roads aren’t any better. According to estimates, the state’s neglected roads cost drivers $637 a year in vehicle repairs, making it just one example of why the U.S. received a D+ grade in the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2017 U.S. infrastructure report card. The report scored bridges with a C+, while roads earned a D.

Due to limited funding from state and federal governments, roads with poor conditions are rampant throughout the United States, with 23 states having more than 50% of their roads graded as deficient. Of those states, six have more than 70% of their roads in disrepair.

According to estimates, more than 3 trillion miles were traveled on U.S. roadways in 2016. Overall vehicle travel has also increased, putting even more pressure on a weakened infrastructure. Higher travel rates, weather, and weather treatments like de-icing chemicals all contribute to a road’s aging. It’s the overall lack of maintenance, however, that eventually makes roads deficient.

Meanwhile, bridges marked as deficient are still used for travel. In fact, 188 million trips were made across structurally unsound bridges in 2016, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. Bridges, which degrade from weather, chemicals, and repeated travel, also break down because of low-quality materials used in their initial construction. Age is a particularly significant factor for bridges: most are designed to last between 50 to 100 years, and nearly four out of 10 bridges in the U.S. are now 50 years or older.

How bridges and roads are inspected

Inspections of roads and bridges confirm the urgent need for repairs and maintenance. Commercial divers often inspect bridges, because wear and tear occurs beneath the water’s surface as well as above it. Divers look for erosion from sand and sediment, along with cracks from stress or signs of an eventual break. However, this method can be expensive and ineffective due to limited visibility and concerns about safety and security.

New technology, such as acoustic imaging and remotely operated vehicles, helps divers focus their efforts. The sonar technology of underwater drones also alerts teams to potential obstructions or dangers divers might otherwise miss due to poor visibility.

Drones can also provide live video feeds, allowing crews to assess and analyze visuals, which divers can use as a reference. Teams can then order any necessary parts or materials to start repairs more quickly and effectively. Underwater drones can also assist during repairs, providing workers on land with a live video stream to monitor the dive team’s safety and progress.

Road inspections are often completed with machine testing and computer-analyzed video of roadways. Computers analyzing these videos log cracks and surface wear to develop pavement condition reports, which workers can compare to previous years. Machines such as miniature trailers are used to test a road’s friction, smoothness, and pavement structure. Some travelers notice factors such as road smoothness and friction, or how much their tires are sticking to the pavement.

Pavement structure is an important test because it shows if a road can handle the weight and volume of its daily traffic. When the structure fails, it can cause potholes. Machine testing contributes to computer-analyzed databases offering information about specific areas prone to wear.

Inspections and technology are crucial to developing maintenance and repair plans for bridges and roads throughout the U.S., but how to fund these repairs is an unanswered question.

How will state and federal governments replace bridges and roads?

Federal and state governments’ primary source of funding to replace and repair U.S. bridges and roads is, of course, taxes. The federal gas tax, which was passed in 1932, was designed to fund the maintenance, repair, and construction of U.S. infrastructure. Fast-forward 85 years, and lawmakers have increased this tax only 10 times. Today, the federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon, and its last increase was more than 20 years ago. Rhode Island and at least 17 other states, however, have begun to increase their taxes to support infrastructure.

Private investment is another possible solution to address crumbling U.S. bridges and roads, an option that is being considered by the Trump Administration. Building America’s Future, a bipartisan coalition, is directed toward earning infrastructure investments from outside sources, as tolls are not an option for all of America’s bridges and roads.

How the U.S. government will proceed with repairs to bridges and roads is still to be determined. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates the cost of repairing U.S. roads and bridges at $836 billion and $123 billion, respectively. And that cost will only increase, as strained budgets continue to prevent regular preventative maintenance that could have helped prevent the country’s current infrastructure crisis in the first place.

For more on how technology innovation can help solve societal problems, see Devices For The Digital Economy: Frugal Innovation.

Image source: Pixabay 

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Megan Ray Nichols

About Megan Ray Nichols

Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance science writer and the editor of "Schooled By Science." She enjoys researching the latest advances in technology and writes regularly for Datafloq, Colocation American, and Vision Times. You can follow Megan on Twitter.

Devices for the Digital Economy: Frugal Innovation

Danielle Beurteaux

Basic Utilities

Millions of people around the world still lack consistent access to the basics of modern life. They also lack resources to build conventional infrastructure in order to obtain essentials such as water and a consistent supply of electricity. Enter frugal innovation—a process for simplifying complex technologies so they are less expensive to produce and operate. Two startups have devised affordable systems that give people access to essential utilities.

Waterpoint Data Transmitter

About 780 million people, mainly in rural locations, don’t have indoor plumbing. Instead, they rely on hand pumps to access groundwater. Sooner or later, these hand pumps break and often aren’t fixed due to lack of parts and know-how. By some estimates, one-third of pumps aren’t functioning at any given time.

OxWater, a startup launched from Oxford University, has a solution that incorporates basic cell phone technology. The Waterpoint Data Transmitter is a monitoring device that communities deploy to track pump usage. If a pump stops working, a local, trained repair team receives a notification to fix it. The device also provides predictions of which pumps are likely to break and reports low water levels. A pilot project in Kenya showed a dramatic reduction in repair times, from an average of 37 days down to just two.

Quad

Solar power has become an important technology for people living in off-the-grid rural environments. But once the sun goes down, or during spells of cloudy days, the solar panels may not generate enough electricity. That often means a return to inefficient and unsafe solutions, such as kerosene lamps for lighting.

Azuri Technologies has developed a simple, independent system that enables solar users to adapt the amount of power they use according to the amount of energy they generate. The Quad is a small wall-mounted unit that’s wired to a solar panel that comes with a USB port for mobile phone charging. The system uses the company’s HomeSmart technology to monitor local weather patterns and learn consumers’ energy usage. Then, based on available energy, it automatically regulates the amount of power used for lighting (by, for example, adjusting brightness) and battery charging.

A 5-watt system costs about US$156, which users can pay off weekly using a mobile money account. Once they own the unit, they can generate power at no cost. Since its launch in Kenya in 2011, 90,000 Quads have been purchased in 12 African countries.

Digital Rescue

Preventing disasters and delivering aid when they do hit are difficult in isolated locations, where there aren’t enough services that enable quick reaction. Complexity and cost can also keep aid from reaching its targets. These startups are using frugal technology in imaginative ways to issue alerts of impending problems and deliver help to people in need.

Pouncer

Disaster relief is an uphill race against the clock. Whether responding to a natural disaster, war, or famine, aid workers must assemble and deliver supplies, navigate around natural obstacles, avoid thieves, and stay safe. Windhorse Aerospace has developed POUNCER, a disposable drone, to address these problems.

Designed for takeoff from a C-130 Hercules military transport plane and guided using a built-in GPS, POUNCER can be launched from up to 40 kilometers from its destination, with a landing accuracy of within 7 meters. The drone can carry enough food and water rations for 50 people. What’s more, every part is reusable and disposable. For example, the frame, which has a 3-meter wingspan, can be used for shelter or burned for fuel (Windhorse is meanwhile looking to develop an edible frame). Because the entire unit is designed for on-site use, there’s also no cost or peril involved in recovering it from the disaster area.

Lumkani

Many of the world’s poor live in shacks that are built very close together, and they lack electricity. As a result, they rely heavily on open flames for light, heat, and cooking, creating a high risk of fire. But conventional smoke detectors can’t be relied on in places that are already smoky. One devastating fire in Cape Town, South Africa, prompted a group of local university students to design a fire detection device specifically for these environments.

The Lumkani detector is a small wall-mounted unit that runs on batteries and, instead of being triggered by smoke, detects fires by monitoring temperature increases. The detectors use basic radio frequency technology to link all units within a 60-meter radius to a mesh network, which enables early warning alerts for the surrounding inhabitants. The $7 device also stores GPS coordinates, sends warning texts to residents, and can self-monitor the operating health of the whole linked system. Lumkani is working on a way to send real-time data to local emergency response units.

Data at the Digital Frontier

Do you own the land you’re farming? When will the next rainstorm hit? These are basic questions, but for some people living in emerging economies, they’re not so easy to answer. Startups are using clever designs and simple interfaces to provide the information that rural communities need to thrive.

FarmSeal

For millions of small landowners around the world, verifying a legal claim to their land is a complex, expensive, and practically insurmountable process. And without documentation that proves that they own their land, protecting their property rights is nearly impossible, as is getting loans to expand their land holdings and businesses.

Landmapp, based in Amsterdam and operating in Ghana, has developed a mobile platform to make mapping and filing claims accessible to small landowners. The company educates farmers about property rights and then, for a small fee, uses its own platform to record and legally validate land ownership. Landmapp uses geospatial technology and cloud data on a tablet, meaning they don’t need fancy and expensive surveying equipment. FarmSeal, Landmapp’s first product, serves farmers; the company is also launching HomeSeal, for homeowners, and CropSeal, for sharecroppers and landowners. The startup’s platform incorporates local government, legal, and traditional community agreements, and is customizable for different locales.

3D-Printed Weather Stations

Weather data drives numerous economic and public safety decisions. But in many countries, a scarcity of weather stations means no data about vast geographic areas. Unfortunately, conventional weather stations are expensive, costing upwards of $20,000 per unit. In emerging economies, governments and rural communities don’t have the resources or training to buy and maintain them.

At the nonprofit university consortium University Corporation for Academic Research, researchers are leveraging 3D printing to fill the weather gap. They’ve devised a weather station that local government agencies can install in rural communities. The units use off-the-shelf, basic sensors, store data on a small computer, and run on energy generated by a single solar panel. The local agencies have 3D printers to create other parts, including the frame and wind gauges, which can be easily customized or replaced.

The cost? About $300. And beyond letting communities know when, for example, rain is on the horizon, the unit can also be a first alert for natural disasters, like floods.

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.

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Taking Learning Back to School

Dan Wellers

 

Denmark spends most GDP on labor market programs at 3.3%.
The U.S. spends only 0.1% of it’s GDP on adult education and workforce retraining.
The number of post-secondary vocational and training institutions in China more than doubled from 2000 to 2014.
47% of U.S. jobs are at risk for automation.

Our overarching approach to education is top down, inflexible, and front loaded in life, and does not encourage collaboration.

Smartphone apps that gamify learning or deliver lessons in small bits of free time can be effective tools for teaching. However, they don’t address the more pressing issue that the future is digital and those whose skills are outmoded will be left behind.

Many companies have a history of effective partnerships with local schools to expand their talent pool, but these efforts are not designed to change overall systems of learning.


The Question We Must Answer

What will we do when digitization, automation, and artificial intelligence eject vast numbers of people from their current jobs, and they lack the skills needed to find new ones?

Solutions could include:

  • National and multinational adult education programs
  • Greater investment in technical and vocational schools
  • Increased emphasis on apprenticeships
  • Tax incentives for initiatives proven to close skills gaps

We need a broad, systemic approach that breaks businesses, schools, governments, and other organizations that target adult learners out of their silos so they can work together. Chief learning officers (CLOs) can spearhead this approach by working together to create goals, benchmarks, and strategy.

Advancing the field of learning will help every business compete in an increasingly global economy with a tight market for skills. More than this, it will mitigate the workplace risks and challenges inherent in the digital economy, thus positively influencing the future of business itself.


Download the executive brief Taking Learning Back to School.


Read the full article The Future of Learning – Keeping up With The Digital Economy

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Dan Wellers

About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is founder and leader of Digital Futures at SAP, a strategic insights and thought leadership discipline that explores how digital technologies drive exponential change in business and society.

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Why Millennials Quit: Understanding A New Workforce

Shelly Kramer

Millennials are like mobile devices: they’re everywhere. You can’t visit a coffee shop without encountering both in large numbers. But after all, who doesn’t like a little caffeine with their connectivity? The point is that you should be paying attention to millennials now more than ever because they have surpassed Boomers and Gen-Xers as the largest generation.

Unfortunately for the workforce, they’re also the generation most likely to quit. Let’s examine a new report that sheds some light on exactly why that is—and what you can do to keep millennial employees working for you longer.

New workforce, new values

Deloitte found that two out of three millennials are expected to leave their current jobs by 2020. The survey also found that a staggering one in four would probably move on in the next year alone.

If you’re a business owner, consider putting four of your millennial employees in a room. Take a look around—one of them will be gone next year. Besides their skills and contributions, you’ve also lost time and resources spent by onboarding and training those employees—a very costly process. According to a new report from XYZ University, turnover costs U.S. companies a whopping $30.5 billion annually.

Let’s take a step back and look at this new workforce with new priorities and values.

Everything about millennials is different, from how to market to them as consumers to how you treat them as employees. The catalyst for this shift is the difference in what they value most. Millennials grew up with technology at their fingertips and are the most highly educated generation to date. Many have delayed marriage and/or parenthood in favor of pursuing their careers, which aren’t always about having a great paycheck (although that helps). Instead, it may be more that the core values of your business (like sustainability, for example) or its mission are the reasons that millennials stick around at the same job or look for opportunities elsewhere. Consider this: How invested are they in their work? Are they bored? What does their work/life balance look like? Do they have advancement opportunities?

Ping-pong tables and bringing your dog to work might be trendy, but they aren’t the solution to retaining a millennial workforce. So why exactly are they quitting? Let’s take a look at the data.

Millennials’ common reasons for quitting

In order to gain more insight into the problem of millennial turnover, XYZ University surveyed more than 500 respondents between the ages of 21 and 34 years old. There was a good mix of men and women, college grads versus high school grads, and entry-level employees versus managers. We’re all dying to know: Why did they quit? Here are the most popular reasons, some in their own words:

  • Millennials are risk-takers. XYZ University attributes this affection for risk taking with the fact that millennials essentially came of age during the recession. Surveyed millennials reported this experience made them wary of spending decades working at one company only to be potentially laid off.
  • They are focused on education. More than one-third of millennials hold college degrees. Those seeking advanced degrees can find themselves struggling to finish school while holding down a job, necessitating odd hours or more than one part-time gig. As a whole, this generation is entering the job market later, with higher degrees and higher debt.
  • They don’t want just any job—they want one that fits. In an age where both startups and seasoned companies are enjoying success, there is no shortage of job opportunities. As such, they’re often looking for one that suits their identity and their goals, not just the one that comes up first in an online search. Interestingly, job fit is often prioritized over job pay for millennials. Don’t forget, if they have to start their own company, they will—the average age for millennial entrepreneurs is 27.
  • They want skills that make them competitive. Many millennials enjoy the challenge that accompanies competition, so wearing many hats at a position is actually a good thing. One millennial journalist who used to work at Forbes reported that millennials want to learn by “being in the trenches, and doing it alongside the people who do it best.”
  • They want to do something that matters. Millennials have grown up with change, both good and bad, so they’re unafraid of making changes in their own lives to pursue careers that align with their desire to make a difference.
  • They prefer flexibility. Technology today means it’s possible to work from essentially anywhere that has an Internet connection, so many millennials expect at least some level of flexibility when it comes to their employer. Working remotely all of the time isn’t feasible for every situation, of course, but millennials expect companies to be flexible enough to allow them to occasionally dictate their own schedules. If they have no say in their workday, that’s a red flag.
  • They’ve got skills—and they want to use them. In the words of a 24-year-old designer, millennials “don’t need to print copies all day.” Many have paid (or are in the midst of paying) for their own education, and they’re ready and willing to put it to work. Most would prefer you leave the smaller tasks to the interns.
  • They got a better offer. Thirty-five percent of respondents to XYZ’s survey said they quit a previous job because they received a better opportunity. That makes sense, especially as recruiting is made simpler by technology. (Hello, LinkedIn.)
  • They seek mentors. Millennials are used to being supervised, as many were raised by what have been dubbed as “helicopter parents.” Receiving support from those in charge is the norm, not the anomaly, for this generation, and they expect that in the workplace, too.

Note that it’s not just XYZ University making this final point about the importance of mentoring. Consider Figures 1 and 2 from Deloitte, proving that millennials with worthwhile mentors report high satisfaction rates in other areas, such as personal development. As you can see, this can trickle down into employee satisfaction and ultimately result in higher retention numbers.

Millennials and Mentors
Figure 1. Source: Deloitte


Figure 2. Source: Deloitte

Failure to . . .

No, not communicate—I would say “engage.” On second thought, communication plays a role in that, too. (Who would have thought “Cool Hand Luke” would be applicable to this conversation?)

Data from a recent Gallup poll reiterates that millennials are “job-hoppers,” also pointing out that most of them—71 percent, to be exact—are either not engaged in or are actively disengaged from the workplace. That’s a striking number, but businesses aren’t without hope. That same Gallup poll found that millennials who reported they are engaged at work were 26 percent less likely than their disengaged counterparts to consider switching jobs, even with a raise of up to 20 percent. That’s huge. Furthermore, if the market improves in the next year, those engaged millennial employees are 64 percent less likely to job-hop than those who report feeling actively disengaged.

What’s next?

I’ve covered a lot in this discussion, but here’s what I hope you will take away: Millennials comprise a majority of the workforce, but they’re changing how you should look at hiring, recruiting, and retention as a whole. What matters to millennials matters to your other generations of employees, too. Mentoring, compensation, flexibility, and engagement have always been important, but thanks to the vocal millennial generation, we’re just now learning exactly how much.

What has been your experience with millennials and turnover? Are you a millennial who has recently left a job or are currently looking for a new position? If so, what are you missing from your current employer, and what are you looking for in a prospective one? Alternatively, if you’re reading this from a company perspective, how do you think your organization stacks up in the hearts and minds of your millennial employees? Do you have plans to do anything differently? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

For more insight on millennials and the workforce, see Multigenerational Workforce? Collaboration Tech Is The Key To Success.

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