News Article | April 30, 2017
PPG Industries has made a third offer to acquire fellow paint producer AkzoNobel, this time for $28.8 billion. PPG had already offered to buy the Dutch firm for $26.3 billion, but its advances were firmly rejected. The latest offer represents a premium of around 50% over AkzoNobel’s share price in March, before PPG’s first bid was made public. AkzoNobel will only say that under Dutch regulations it will carefully review and consider the proposal. PPG’s new offer continues a game of cat and mouse between the two companies. AkzoNobel’s CEO Ton Büchner had refused to talk with PPG’s management team about the two previous offers because he said they undervalued the company. He also said any deal was in danger of being derailed by regulatory bodies and could lead to job cuts. Unlike in its previous two offers, though, this time PPG says it is prepared to give AkzoNobel a “significant” but as yet undisclosed fee should the two companies strike a deal but competition authorities block it. Additionally, PPG has agreed to protect pensions, jobs, and the Dutch firm’s headquarters. Investors such as the activist shareholder Elliott Management had been pressuring Büchner to talk with PPG even before the latest offer. Analysts think AkzoNobel will now be forced to come to the negotiating table. “PPG has threatened a hostile bid if this does not elicit a negotiation. That will probably not be necessary,” says John Colley, a professor at Warwick Business School. PPG’s new offer comes just days after Büchner detailed plans to divest AkzoNobel’s chemicals business within 12 months, leaving it with only paints and coatings activities. Büchner told AkzoNobel shareholders that the move would create more value than PPG’s offer at the time. PPG counters that its latest offer is “vastly superior” to AkzoNobel’s plan. It predicts that combining the two companies will create $750 million per year in synergies. Even if PPG doesn’t succeed in acquiring AkzoNobel with its latest offer, it may mount a subsequent challenge. The U.S. firm may opt to relaunch its offer in 2018 or 2019 once AkzoNobel’s chemicals divestment is out of the way, predicts the investment banking firm Jefferies.
News Article | April 24, 2017
PPG has made a third offer to acquire fellow paints producer AkzoNobel, this time for $28.8 billion. PPG had already offered to buy the Dutch firm for $26.3 billion but its advances had been firmly rejected. The latest offer represents a premium of around 50% over AkzoNobel’s share price back in March, before PPG’s first bid was made public. AkzoNobel has chosen not to comment on the latest offer but says that under Dutch regulations it will carefully review and consider the proposal. PPG’s new offer follows a game of cat and mouse between the two companies. AkzoNobel’s CEO Ton Büchner had been refusing to talk with PPG’s management team about the two previous offers because he said they undervalued the company. He also said that any deal between the two firms risked being derailed by regulatory bodies and could lead to job cuts. Unlike its previous two offers, though, PPG says this time it is prepared to give AkzoNobel a “significant” but as yet undisclosed fee should the two companies agree to terms but competition authorities prohibit the deal. Additionally, PPG has agreed to protect pensions, jobs, and the Dutch firm’s European headquarters. Büchner had already been under pressure to discuss terms with PPG before the latest offer. Activist shareholder Elliott Management has been pressing the two paints producers to enter negotiations. Analysts think PPG’s latest offer will be enough to force AkzoNobel’s management to the negotiating table. “PPG has threatened a hostile bid if this does not elicit a negotiation. That will probably not be necessary,” says John Colley, a business professor for England’s Warwick Business School. PPG’s new offer comes just days after Büchner detailedplans to divest AkzoNobel’s chemicals business within 12 months, a move that would leave the firm with only paints and coatings activities. Büchner had told AkzoNobel shareholders that this would return more money to them than PPG’s offer at the time of $26.3 billion. PPG says, though, that its latest offer is “vastly superior” to AkzoNobel’s new stand-alone plan. PPG predicts that by combining the two companies it would add $750 million to the top line annually through synergies. Even if PPG doesn’t succeed in acquiring AkzoNobel with its latest offer, analysts predict the firm may mount a subsequent challenge. If AkzoNobel refuses the offer, PPG may opt to retreat and relaunch its offer in 2018-2019 once the chemicals divestment is out of the way, forecasts the investment banking firm Jefferies.
News Article | November 7, 2016
In an interview with CNBC Friday, SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk said that his company could return its rockets to flight in mid-December, following a Sept. 1 explosion that destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket and its payload. An explosion on the launch site of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is shown in this still image from video in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Sept. 1. Two months after a fueling failure caused a SpaceX rocket to burst into flames, the space launch company says it hopes its resume its launches as early as next month. In an interview with CNBC Friday, chief executive Elon Musk said the company had learned the reason for the explosion and that SpaceX rockets could return to flight by mid-December. "I think we've gotten to the bottom of the problem," Mr. Musk said. Investigators reportedly determined that the failure was caused by a fueling system malfunction that produced solid oxygen inside the rocket's upper stage tank, causing a reaction with a carbon composite bottle containing liquid helium that sits inside the oxygen tank, resulting in an explosion. The Sept. 1 explosion raised the question of whether the private space company, which aims to send colonists to Mars by 2024, has been pushing the boundaries of space exploration a little too hard. Others predicted that the accident would create an opportunity for Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin, a rival aerospace company. SpaceX has also faced criticism from NASA for its plans to fuel rockets with humans on board, as Christina Beck reported for The Christian Science Monitor last week: NASA first raised questions about SpaceX’s unusual fueling procedures months before the company’s catastrophic Sept. 1 launchpad explosion. On Monday, a NASA advisory committee issued stronger warnings regarding the way SpaceX intends to fuel rockets that will eventually carry humans. SpaceX employs a different fueling strategy than other companies: It uses chilled liquid oxygen in order to be able to fit more fuel in the tank and lift more weight into orbit, an innovative step that has allowed SpaceX to break new ground in cargo carriage. But because of this special fueling method, its spacecraft must be fueled immediately before launch so that the fuel does not warm up, which means that in the future, astronauts will likely be aboard prior to fueling. Despite concerns from NASA and other leaders in the spaceflight industry, some experts say mishaps such as the Falcon 9 rocket explosion, which also destroyed a $200 million communications satellite commissioned by Facebook to bring wireless connectivity to remote and impoverished areas, are a normal part of experimentation. "With space missions, even the most advanced simulations cannot replace learning by doing, given the multitude of variables involved and the importance of learning from experience," Loizos Heracleous, a Warwick Business School professor in England who has worked with NASA, told the Monitor in an email. "This explosion will not change the long term goals of SpaceX, which are to reduce the cost of space flight through the use of reusable rockets, and eventually to colonise Mars." Speaking on Friday, Musk did not elaborate on which mission would launch next or which launch pad SpaceX would use. This report contains material from Reuters.
News Article | December 16, 2016
Late Wednesday evening news broke of yet another Yahoo hack. The company remains in the dark about the intrusion method and identity of the hackers. One thing is certain: an additional 1 billion user accounts—including usernames, phone numbers, security questions, and other sensitive information—were compromised. "Any breach that involves personally identifiable (PII) information—like names, addresses, and user credentials—can haunt its victims for months or years," said cybersecurity firm eSentire CEO J. Paul Haynes in a statement. "This information usually ends up on the dark web, where it's cycled through buyers who can use that information to commit various forms of fraud. Hackers can also use PII to access other systems, particularly if the victim used similar username and password combinations for other accounts." The hack also rocked Verizon's planned $4.8 billion acquisition of Yahoo. "The news ... increases the pressure on both Verizon's board to negotiate a lower price and on Yahoo's board to finalise a sale," said John Colley, Professor of Practice at Warwick Business School. "Verizon will have to demonstrate to shareholders that major concessions have been achieved as Yahoo! is clearly worth less now than when the $4.8Bn deal was struck. Aborting the deal may be the best option for Verizon as many shareholders have doubts about their social media strategy." Yahoo responded to the breach in an email to users that stated simply, "we have taken steps to secure your account and are working closely with law enforcement." What do you think? Can Yahoo recover from the latest hack? Should Verizon continue with the acquisition? Answer the poll below and leave your thoughts in the comments below.
News Article | October 28, 2016
A London court ruled Friday that Uber drivers should be classified as employees, rather than independent contractors. The decision could have serious ramifications on the ride-hailing company and its so-called "gig economy" brethren. Uber's current classification of drivers as contractors means the company isn't responsible for many costs, including Social Security (in the US), health insurance, paid sick days, gas, car maintenance and much more. If all drivers are eventually deemed employees, Uber will have to pay for all of this, as well as manage a workforce of more than one million. "This is a groundbreaking decision," Annie Powell, a lawyer for the firm Leigh Day that represented UK Uber drivers, said in a statement. "It will impact not just on the thousands of Uber drivers working in this country, but on all workers in the so-called gig economy whose employers wrongly classify them as self-employed and deny them the rights to which they are entitled." Gig economy is a term given to the workforce in which someone is hired, usually through a digital marketplace, to work on demand, for a short-term engagement. Founded in 2009, Uber offers a mobile app that lets passengers hail a ride from their phone. The company began operations in San Francisco and is now one of the world's biggest ride-hailing services, operating in more than 450 cities in more than 70 countries. Uber is also the highest-valued venture-backed company in the world with a valuation of $68 billion. Much of this valuation, however, is based on Uber's ability to be profitable by running its ride-hailing platform. If the company has to pay for its drivers' expenses, profits could diminish or costs could be transferred to passengers. As discussions of driver classification arose over the past couple of years, Uber has always said that it classifies drivers as contractors because that's what drivers want. "Tens of thousands of people in London drive with Uber precisely because they want to be self-employed and their own boss," wrote Jo Bertram, Uber UK's regional general manager, in an email to CNET. "The overwhelming majority of drivers who use the Uber app want to keep the freedom and flexibility of being able to drive when and where they want." In the US, Uber settled two similar lawsuits in April over the classification of drivers. The class action suits were brought in California and Massachusetts and involved roughly 385,000 drivers. Under the settlement agreement, Uber was allowed to continue classifying its drivers as independent contractors but had to pay $100 million to the drivers involved in the suit. The ride-hailing company also agreed to certain concessions, including giving drivers more information when they're banned from the service, not terminating drivers at will and creating a "Driver Association" to address drivers' concerns. The London Central Employment Tribunal on Friday took these decisions a step further. The court said Uber drivers should be classified as employees, earn at least the national minimum wage and get paid vacations. The tribunal will hold another hearing to determine the amount of pay drivers should receive. Uber said it is appealing the decision. While this preliminary decision threatens Uber's business model, it's currently limited to only two drivers. Uber has more than 40,000 drivers in the UK. Lawyers for the two drivers said they intend to open the case up to those thousands of other drivers. In the wake of Uber's worker classification battles, several other on-demand companies have begun to rethink employee classification. The grocery-delivery startup Instacart said in June 2015 that it's switching hundreds of its personal shoppers from contract workers to part-time employees. House-cleaning startup Homejoy said in July 2015 that it was permanently shutting down after being sued over the classification of its workers. Several similar lawsuits have also popped up against other on-demand companies, including Postmates, Handy, Shyp and Washio. "The Uber ruling will demystify much rhetoric on the 'gig economy' being inherently liberating," said Guglielmo Meardi, industrial relations professor at Warwick Business School in the UK. "Over recent years self-employment has increased, but often coming with very bad conditions, prompting fears that it was being used to bypass employment legislation."
News Article | February 27, 2017
A controversial £24bn tie-up between the London Stock Exchange and its German counterpart Deutsche Börse is on the brink of failure after a last-minute demand from Brussels appeared to scupper the year-long merger effort. The LSE stunned the City by revealing it would not sell off part of its Italian business and warned that the defiant move meant the European commission was “unlikely to provide clearance for the merger”. While neither the LSE or Deutsche Börse formally abandoned the tie up on Monday, there were expectations that the deal announced a year ago would not be able to proceed and would potentially open the door to offers from US exchanges. The commission would not comment before a deadline for delivering its formal verdict on 3 April. Analysts at stockbroker Numis said: “We believe it is highly unlikely this deal will now complete.” The deal has been controversial from the outset after it was announced just months before the EU referendum. It is the third attempt by the two major stock exchange operators to unite after efforts in 2000 and 2005 failed. The vote for Brexit added grist to an already politically-charged backdrop. Deutsche Börse, which operates the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, will have a 54% stake in the enlarged business. This has caused alarm in the UK among eurosceptic MPs and some Brexit-backing business leaders, while the location of its headquarters in London caused concern in Germany. Further question marks were raised over the deal after the LSE suddenly revealed late on Sunday it had been asked to sell its its 60% stake in MTS – a trading platform used to trade Italian government bonds – by midday on Monday. It was the first the City had known about the demand – which was revealed after a compromise was rejected – which had been raised by the commission on 16 February after the LSE had agreed to offload the French arm of its clearing business to French rival Euronext to meet competition concerns. The latest request was disproportionate, the LSE said. City analysts, though, said it might come as a relief for Theresa May who has faced calls to step in. May’s spokesman said on Monday that the fate of the merger was a commercial matter for the companies involved - although. Monday’s news also raised the prospect that rival offers might emerge from US exchanges – led by the Atlanta-based Intercontinental Exchange – with which the enlarged entity was aiming to compete. It leaves uncertainty for the management of the two exchanges. Xavier Rolet, the chief executive of the LSE, was due to leave under the terms of the deal and will face questions about his future when the exchange publishes its results on Friday. Deutsche Börse chief executive Carsten Kengeter is being investigated over his dealings in Deutsche Börse shares before last year’s takeover announcement. Accusations of insider trading are “without foundation”, the German exchange has said. Both sides – which have racked up more than £300m in fees from City bankers, lawyers and public relations advisers – insisted they were pressing on with the deal. Eurosceptic Conservative MP Bill Cash, who last week held a parliamentary debate on the deal, told Reuters after the unexpected announcement: “It was inconceivable that after Brexit, having left the European Union, that our stock exchange would have been effectively run from Germany.” John Colley, a professor at Warwick Business School, said: “If the LSE/Deutsche Börse merger had progressed, Theresa May would have been under some pressure for allowing the facilitation of trade migration to the EU.” It was, Colley said, May’s “second major stroke of luck in a week” after Kraft Heinz suddenly walked away from its bid for Unilever. Shares in both companies fell on Monday, with LSE recovering partially from earlier losses to close 1.5% lower. Deutsche Börse, which operates the Luxembourg-based clearing house Clearstream and the derivatives platform Eurex, said: “The parties will await the further assessment by the European commission and currently expect a decision by the European commission on the merger of Deutsche Börse and LSE by the end of March 2017.”
News Article | February 15, 2017
Your computer has been locked. To unlock it, you are obliged to pay a fine of $500. A day-ruining phrase like this is coming to a screen near you, and sooner than you might expect. One recent estimate says that even as malware attacks slowed, there were 638 million ransomware attack attempts last year, up from 3.8 million in 2015. Still, fresh research by AVG Business indicates 1 in 3 small businesses are still clueless about it. Malware with names like Cryptolocker or Popcorn Time have enabled amateur hackers to operate what amounts to an old-fashioned extortion racket on a global scale, and a very lucrative one at that. According to IBM, cybercriminals are thought to have made an eye-watering $1 billion from ransomware last year. What’s more, half of the executives who paid up handed over more than $10,000 to the criminals and 20% over $40,000. It has been estimated that in the first half of 2016 alone, one gang of ransomware hackers made an estimated $121 million. Ransom-seeking coders and social engineers—the majority of them Russian speakers, according to Moscow-based Kaspersky Labs—initially targeted individuals. Then they moved on to small businesses, their corporate big brothers, and now hospitals, hotels, railways, the police, and government, where sensitive personally identifiable information is scarily abundant. More than a dozen hospitals have reported ransomware attacks in the past year, including Hollywood Presbyterian, which was told to pay $3.4 million if they wanted their data back. Last month, a police department in Texas reported that it had lost years of evidence after refusing to pay a ransom to hackers, while the Washington, D.C., police announced that it had discovered that many of the recorders for its CCTV cameras had been infected by ransomware, just days before the presidential inauguration. Earlier this month, the government of Licking, Ohio confirmed that its computer systems had been taken over by ransomware. Despite the nature of these high-profile targets, an increasing number of ransomware attacks are being targeted at small businesses and startups, with ransoms ranging from $500 to $50,000. And the numbers are growing: Security firm Symantec estimates that the average ransom demanded in 2016 was $679, more than double the $295 demanded at the end of 2015. Small businesses can be better targets than bigger ones because they often don’t have skilled staff or the time and money to devote to cyber defense. Many don’t even realize the value of their own data. The research by IBM also suggests that executives are more liable to settle than individuals. In response, the FBI is urging victims to report attacks to them regardless of whether they paid so they can gain a better understanding of the scale of the threat in the U.S. and its impact on victims. Their advice is not to pay any ransom. If hackers don't delete your data, they could leak it online or sell to the highest bidder. Another form of ransomware can take a screenshot or extract a particular file and upload it to the thief, who can increase the ransom based on what he sees. Or the ransom amount may start to increase the longer you take to pay it. Some cyber criminals have begun to give their victims a second option by turning them into hackers: Help install the same software on other peoples' computers, and if those people pay up, you get your data back. More worrisome, ransomware doesn’t take advanced technical skills to operate. The software can be bought off the shelf, or even rented: Ransomware-as-a-service allows criminals who don’t have the technical expertise to rent an existing botnet of infected computers that can be used to infect new computers. The criminals then get paid a commission on every successful ransom. Mac OS and Linux users aren't completely safe either, according to a new study by security firm PhishLabs. Though Windows is the most targeted operating system, more malware is being created specifically for OS X, Linux, and server operating systems. Ransomware attacks targeting Android-based mobile phones are still relatively rare, but they are also on the rise. The so-called internet of things is also vulnerable, as are bigger things: This week, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology demonstrated a ransomware attack on a simulated water treatment plant. If you haven’t protected yourself against it, a ransomware attack could mean life or death for your company. The U.S. National Cyber Security Alliance reports that up to 60% of hacked small and medium-size businesses go out of business six months after a cyberattack. Rokenbok Education, a San Diego-based toy company, lost thousands of dollars while it struggled with an attack just before the holiday season started. Children in Film lost access to files stored on a cloud drive within 30 minutes of an employee opening an attachment they shouldn’t have opened on New Year's Eve. It took a week to restore the data, even with backups. But there are no assurances: According to a report from security firm Kaspersky Lab, one in every five companies that pay ransom never get their data back. The surge in ransomware attacks and reports of big payouts appears to be driving a rise in cyberinsurance offerings, a development that could help shore up general cyber defenses. During a full-day workshop devoted to ransomware at this month's RSA Conference in San Francisco, TechTarget reported, Jeremiah Grossman, chief of security strategy at SentinelOne, predicted that "there's going to be professional ransomware negotiators" helping insurance companies in the future. What hasn’t changed much—and isn’t likely to change in 2017—is how a computer is infected. Someone still has to open a dodgy email, visit an infected site, or download a dubious piece of software. Servers can be hosts, and by hacking into poorly protected internet-connected printers or even kettles, for example, criminals are finding clues to allow them to break into your systems. "The basic problem is that small businesses don’t often have the knowledge or bandwidth to deal with cybersecurity," says professor Mark Skilton, Warwick Business School, cybersecurity expert and author of The 4th Industrial Revolution: An Executive Guide to Intelligent Systems. "Even large retailers [and the police] with all the resources they have at their disposal can make silly errors that quickly become big mistakes." Ransomware has proved to be a formidable challenge for most anti-virus software. Mark suggests, "There are two things that you can easily do. Protect your own data like you would any other valuable thing that you own. Encrypt it so criminals can’t publish it online. The other approach is what I call the protection of the herd. Small business can’t always afford the IT systems they need to stay secure. So, use a good public cloud service to provide you with a remote backup." "It’s easy to over-compensate on cybersecurity," he adds. "You also need to think about what is the proportional level for your company." Another solution is provided by sites such as No More Ransom, which is run by the National High Tech Crime Unit of the Netherlands’ police, Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre, and two cyber security companies—Kaspersky Lab and Intel Security—with the goal of helping victims recover their data without paying a ransom. It also tries to educate users about ransomware and how to defend against it. Still another solution is the free Windows app called RansomFree developed by the security firm Cybereason. This app protects a computer by watching for typical behaviors exhibited by ransomware behavior. "Sometimes it’s the simplest things that offer the best protection against ransomware," says Tony Anscombe, senior security evangelist at AVG Business. Anti-virus software is a good preventative measure, and making sure you regularly back up your data will reduce the impact if you are locked out of your systems. Mark Skilton emphasizes the risk of "the human factor." "Increase your employees’ awareness by asking them to think twice about clicking on links in a suspicious looking or unexpected email, especially if it’s purporting to have come from a more senior employee who happens to be on holiday," he says. "Restricting who can see what on your system can also prevent malicious software from spreading. Don’t assume the brand-name internet-enabled printers or machines you buy are protected. Check first." Amid a growing wave of attacks, good cybersecurity for a small business isn’t very expensive. Being held for ransom is.
News Article | February 27, 2017
Taking part in the competition has given us ideas on how to use behavioural science theories to find new ways to encourage our customers to spend less First Utility, with offices in Warwick and Coventry, is the largest challenger to the Big Six energy providers and has teamed up with Warwick Business School to find innovative ways to save energy. With energy costs increasing and UK emissions-reduction targets in place, keeping domestic energy consumption down is important - both for lowering bills through less energy waste and reducing the need for new emission-intensive generation capacity. The Nudgeathon – a behavioural change competition – saw teams of students from 24 countries and various universities pitch their energy-saving ideas to a panel of judges which included Bill Wilkins, Chief Information Officer at the locally-headquartered energy firm, First Utility. The winning concept came from a team of six students attending Warwick University, City University London and Oxford University. They proposed the idea of using heat-imaging cameras to photograph students’ rooms and post the pictures in communal areas to allow students to compare their own energy usage to that of their peers. The idea based on social norms and behavioural economics proved most popular with the judges. Offering his congratulations to the winning team on their success, Bill Wilkins, Chief Information Officer, First Utility said: “As an energy company that strives to be different from the rest, we are always looking for ways to do more for our customers. Taking part in the competition has given us ideas on how to use behavioural science theories to find new ways to encourage our customers to spend less than they have to on their energy bills and more on what they want.” The winners – Romil Depala, Daniel Banki, Rory Flanagan, Gervase Poulden, Rhea George and Olivia Stevens – also came up with the idea of having incentives in place to encourage energy saving habits on campus. They suggested a system where the students whose buildings saved the most amount of energy would receive a portion of the savings as a reward. When asked about their win, Warwick students Daniel Banki and Rory Flanagan said: “It was a lot of fun taking part in the Nudgeathon; it was a great experience to be able to pitch our ideas, based on reinforcing energy-saving habits, to industry experts. It was also interesting to see how our degrees in Psychology and Behavioural and Economic Science can help students save on energy as well as allow them to contribute to the UK’s move towards lower carbon emissions.” “The Nudgeathon was a great success with some really interesting ideas. The winners stood out because they looked at how they would maintain their ideas in the long run and permanently change behaviour. Their ideas are an innovative use of many insights from behavioural science. “It was also a privilege to have the support of First Utility and to see that they are a pioneering company that’s happy to encourage students to achieve something that may have a genuine impact on people’s lives.” First Utility is the UK’s fastest growing and largest independent energy supplier. It supplies gas and electricity to around 900,000 customers throughout the UK and is committed to helping them reduce their energy bills by offering cheaper tariffs, helping customers use less energy through the use of innovative technology and campaigning for industry change.
News Article | November 12, 2016
They got it wrong – again. Despite most opinion polls and forecasts stating that Hilary Clinton would beat Donald Trump in the US presidential election, the reverse happened. Of course, you could argue that the pollsters were dead-on correct: polls called a tight race with Clinton shading it, and that's exactly what happened – Clinton won the popular vote, after all – but Trump routed her in terms of electoral votes. But in-depth polls were also done state-by-state, not least by pollster guru Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight, who calculated that Trump had just a 29% chance of winning. Conservative voters were hugely underestimated, but how? So did 'shy' Trump voters lie to pollsters? Are forecasts based on the wrong data? And can new technology – some of it from a shell-shocked Silicon Valley – help breathe new life into an industry that's now in severe danger of being discredited? Opinion polls are all about extrapolating trends from a relatively small data sample. The pollster asks people how they intend to vote, or how they did just vote, and algorithms are applied to create a demographically balanced national picture. In a country of 231 million potential voters – although around 100 million don't actually vote – it's always going to be based as much on assumptions as on actual data. Key to this is voter turnout, which is very hard to predict; there's simply no data on it until after election day. "The challenge of making any prediction from data is to make sure that the data is representative," says Matt Jones, Analytics Strategist at data science consultancy Tessella. "Traditional statistical analysis of polling data and surveys will only be representative of those that bothered to take part, and that section of the voting population is not representative." Polls are given huge gravitas by the media to the extent that they can be decisive in whether people bother to vote or not – so they can swing an election. Machine learning is already used when running election predictions. It's part of standard statistical analysis. "As for any statistical analysis the single most critical factor is the amount of data available on which to run your algorithms, base your predictions," says Claus Jepson, Chief Architect at Unit4. "As of today the data set available is simply too limited to offer precise predictions, making it necessary to include human interpretations – hence making the predictions biased.” For example, pollsters decide how much statistical weight to give to how many historical election results. “At some point in time the data available will be large enough for algorithms to effectively predict, less biased, outcomes based on polls," thinks Jepson. Some of that 'new' data is from social media, which looks set to become a fresh tool for pollsters looking to track changing opinions. "The use of ‘social listening’ of social media conversations and behaviour may have been an early warning of possible contradictions from official polls," says Mark Skilton, Professor of Practice in the Information Systems & Management Group at Warwick Business School. This is the science of sentiment analysis – when people write things in Twitter and Facebook posts, it's possible to extract positive, negative, or neutral attitudes. No one is suggesting that pollsters just use Twitter to predict elections, but it can be used to improve a purely statistical model by adding a vital dynamic dimension. For example, BJSS SPARCK analysed 14 million tweets before the election and correctly predicted the outcome, uncovering that seven out of every ten tweets sent in the last four weeks of the campaign were in favour of Trump. "When they use social media, people become less guarded about their true social and political affiliations," says Simon Sear, Practice Leader of BJSS SPARCK. "Their language becomes unfiltered, they ‘like’ content that appeals to them and follow people and organisations which represent their values … contrast that with having to admit embarrassing sentiment and intentions to a potentially judgemental human pollster."
Lemaire X.,Warwick Business School
Energy for Sustainable Development | Year: 2011
In rural areas of developing countries, electrification projects with photovoltaic systems were conceived as pilot projects with the implementation of a limited number of systems. After considerable financial support from international donors, photovoltaic systems were often quickly abandoned few years after their installation. Using micro-credit institutions in the energy sector or implementing small utilities with a fee-for-service model is now considered as two desirable options to create a dynamic self-sustained market for solar home systems.South Africa launched in 1999 an ambitious off-grid solar electrification programme with fee-for-service concessions. Operating as small-scale utilities, fee-for-service concessions have facilitated the implementation on a large scale of solar home systems and solved the issue of high up-front cost and of long-term maintenance.This paper focuses on operational and design issues linked to the implementation of fee-for-service concessions. Even in a challenging institutional context, some South African operators seem almost able to reach their break-even point. The case of one concessionaire is detailed and serves as a basis for a discussion on the benefits and difficulties linked to the fee-for-service model and on the potential for replication. © 2011 International Energy Initiative.