TIR Lëtzebuerg 2016: the Rifkin report (part 8)


Part 1: ..ENERGY (1/2)
Part 2. ..ENERGY (2/2)
Part 3: ..MOBILITY
Part 5:  ..FOOD
Part 6:  ..INDUSTRY
Part 7:  ..FINANCE
Part 12: My conclusion



This part 7 comment covers the chapter SMART ECONOMY (p.321-342)

In my opinion, this is the best chapter of the report until now. It avoids endless talk of solar PV and wind energy, is relatively parsimonious with the usual buzzwords, and presents ideas which often seem reasonable and not too outlandish.

8.1. The new oil

At page 323 we find this sentence: “…the most powerful global flows will be ideas, e-services and digital capital”, and at page 327 “data is the new oil that fuels the economy”. This could well be true, even if the neglect of the importance of manfacturing goods seems extreme, and finally not a good strategy: e-services are a layer that can not function without goods; whenn in the chapter on Industry the 3D printer is shown as the savior, this  printer finally makes goods, even if it depends on ideas and software.

Nevertheless, Google and Amazon (and others) show that data are invaluable and their value will certainly increase in the future.

That the smart economy should bring together communication, energy and mobility seems evident; I less appreciate when a subject “au jour” like driver-less cars is continuously repeated. It could well be that driver-less cars will be introduced more fast than previously thought, and than this aspect of mobility becomes standard and could not offer infinite economic  perspectives.

8.2. Innovation is the key

This self-evidence is repeated many times from p.328 on. And as it is practically standard, the lack of our educational system in fostering new ideas and ICT skills is deplored. There is some reason in this: in our lycées classiques, learning to code and develop algorithms is practically absent from the usual curricula. This was not always the case during the past: in the 1980’s coding and programming was highly considered, even if its teaching was often done in optional courses. The report recommends at page 341 that all schools should teach SCRATCH, a programming environment based on graphical structures, and similar to a simplified LABVIEW. In my opinion such precise recommendations should not be made in this report. Nobody knows if SCRATCH will not fall into oblivion in a couple of years, as has LOGO, a programming language also from MIT which was heralded as THE solution to teach ICT awareness.

That Luxembourgs research centers (LIST, UNI-LU) should collaborate with foreign institutions like Fraunhofer is a valid recommendation, but ignores that this happens since quite a time.

8.3.  5G communication infrastructure

5G communication networks will not only use much higher data streams, but will be built to use virtual networks, cable or wireless, will lower power requirements for intelligent things (IoT) by at least a factor of 10 etc. The recommendation that Luxembourg should as soon as possible take the decisions concerning the frequency attribution, the integration of 5G into satellite communication, etc. is absolutely correct. As we have seen for the development of our satellite industry, the time-window not to forget is very small, and quick decisions (even if some unknowns remain) are essential.

That these future networks need a heavy inbuilt resilience and robustness against cyber-attacks, makes the cause to develop these capacities in Luxembourg very strong. I find it a bit childish when future disruption are always said to come from climate change (p.334). Climate changes slowly, but cyber-attacks are fast. I regret that  in this chapter the ignominious climate change must rise its head!

A super fast network (like it is installed now) will also make E-registration and all ancillary e-administration possible. But proposing that every car entering Luxembourg should be followed during its voyage by our smart Internet, collecting all data on performance, energy use etc. ignores that privacy and data protection could eventually play havoc with such grandiose schemes. It also seems difficult with the other proposed mission: Luxembourg should become a pioneer in Generalized Data Protection Regulation (p. 337)


Let me conclude: I find this the most palatable chapter of the report up to page 343. Many suggestions are “du bon sens”, some can be ignored. But compared to the preceding chapters, the working group must be congratulated for avoiding the most extreme suggestions.

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